Stewardship Award Recognizes Outstanding Achievement, Innovative Practice and Leadership in Implementing the “Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy”

Note to Reader:

In recognition of World Water Day 2013 and Canada Water Week, the Ministry of Environment presented the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council with the first-ever Excellence in Water Stewardship Award for British Columbia. The Council acts in an advisory role to the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB). In 2008, the Council released the Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy.

Nelson Jatel accepted the award on behalf of the Council. He is the OBWB’s Water Stewardship Director. In his acceptance speech he presented a series of “quotable quotes” to convey a sense of value demonstrated by the actions of the Council.

—Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson presents award to Nelson Jatel, Water Stewardship Director for the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

Convening for Action in the Okanagan

“The vision of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council, the technical advisory committee of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, has three components:  that the Basin will have clean and healthy water in sufficient abundance to support the Okanagan’s natural ecosystems, agricultural lands and high quality of life for perpetuity,” stated Nelson Jatel when he spoke after receiving the Water Stewardship Award on behalf of the Council.

“Secondly, that we strive for accurate, up-to-date water information and scientific knowledge will support community and regional planning.”

“And, thirdly, that water will be managed in a spirit of cooperation, and a valley-wide ethic of conservation will create a lasting legacy of sustainable water resources for future generations.”

“In reflecting on this excellence in water stewardship award it is humbling to reflect on the dedication and passion of the individuals and organizations who demonstrate commitment, leadership and build trust as we tackle some of the complex contemporary challenges that are involved in providing clean, safe drinking water; protecting the aquatic ecosystem; and reducing conflict between those who depend on water for growing crops, enabling tourism opportunities and supporting their families livelihood throughout the Okanagan.

“Two themes emerge from our member organizations and their participation on the Council and their activities over the past six years, and those are: trust building and leadership.”

“The leadership and dedication of Anna Warwick Sears, OBWB Executive Director, to collaboration has enabled our team of staff at the OBWB to engage in practical and common sense water leadership that is recognized across the Province and Country – demonstrated by this national Council of the Federation award celebrating excellence in water stewardship.”

Voices of the Community: “Quotable Quotes”

“In the few minutes that we have here together, I felt that it was appropriate to convey a sense of value demonstrated by the actions of the Water Stewardship Council – through the voices expressed by Council members and community leaders,” continued Nelson Jatel.

“These testimonials provide a flavor of the kind of commitment and passion that is shared by members throughout the Okanagan and beyond.  It is with this level of commitment, vision and leadership articulated through the voices of the Council’s membership and community leaders that the OBWB’s Water Stewardship Council continues to support Okanagan local governments to address challenging and important water management and governance issues.”

Maria Besso, Society for the Protection of Kalamalka Lake:

“The Council meets once per month, and brings together a diverse group of stakeholders including government staff, leading thinkers, industry representatives, and not for profit groups with an interest in water issues.  Complex issues are dealt with at meetings where many different points of view are heard as a result of thought provoking discussions initiated by innovative speakers.”

“The thoughtful appointment of key, intelligent participants to the Council makes it extremely effective and interesting to attend.  Things like the Okanagan Irrigation management tool (OKIM) developed by a member of the Council have contributed greatly to water conservation, and are key to the resolution o conflicts that may exist between different types of water users.”

Hans Buchler, Chair, BC Wine Grape Council:

“Availability and quality of water are critical to the viability of all agriculture sectors in the semi-arid Okanagan alley and elsewhere in the Province.”

“The Okanagan Basin Water Board’s Stewardship Council has made substantial contributions to the general public’s understanding of the importance of water to agriculture, the environment and the public at large.  The creation of this collaborative environment could be a shining example of how emerging water issues and conflicts can be resolved before they reach critical mass.”

Lee Hesketh, Program Manager of the Farmland Riparian Interface Stewardship Program (FRISP):

“The agriculture sector specially has benefitted through the Stewardship Council’s provision of a forum to present our sectors concerns and needs around resource management to other stakeholders in the Okanagan Basin.”

Denise MacDonald, BC Fruit Growers’ Association executive member:

“The Council has consistently proven to be adaptive and receptive to agricultural concerns and champions the necessity of a secure source of water for agricultural land if we are to continue producing food in this arid Okanagan Valley.”

Dr. Denise Neilsen, Research Scientist Agriculture and Agri-food Canada:

“As the Okanagan is one of the most water-stressed regions in Canada, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada is very concerned about the ability of the local agricultural community to sustain agricultural productivity in the event of droughts or over-allocation.  The Council has taken these matters very seriously, and I am grateful to have a forum where I can discuss the concerns of agriculture with First Nations, fishery biologists and municipal water suppliers, amongst others.”

Renee Clark, Water Quality Manager Regional District of North Okanagan:

“As a member of the Council, the Regional District of North Okanagan has benefited from regular meetings that provide access to a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and strategies in water management.  The Council creates a forum to share information and ideas that are respectful, open minded and creative.”

Keith Fielding, Mayor District of Peachland:

“The Quest to ensure that the Okanagan will continue to have an abundance of clean, healthy water, sufficient to support natural ecosystems, agriculture, and growth pressures, could not be pursued effectively without the aid of the Council and tools it provides to policy makers: in particular, the 2008 Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy; the subsequent Okanagan Water Supply and Demand Project; the Water Reporting Tool for Okanagan water utilities; and most recently the Groundwater Bylaws Toolkit.”

John Janmaat, Regional Innovation Chair in Water Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, UBC:

“The diverse perspectives reflected around the table when council meets are often not in agreement.  However, through regular meetings council members have developed a respect for each other and sometimes even a sympathetic understanding of these alternative perspectives.  Such trust building has played a critical role in building collaboration among the diverse interests in the valley, helping us tackle the water issues we face together.”

Paul Kluckner, Regional Director General, West and North – Environment Canada:

“The Okanagan Basin is one of Environment Canada’s priority ecosystems.  The Council has offered us the ideal venue for engaging a broad range of Basin stakeholders in a manner that has informed ourprogram and policy development and allowed us to convey our scientific knowledge and concerns to the communities and opinion leaders of the Basin.”

“The Council has brought together partners, including Environment Canada, to work on specific projects like the Supply and Demand project, to ensure that Basin decision-makers have the information and tools to make more sustainable water-use decisions in the coming decades.”

Ivor Norlin, Manager of Infrastructure Programs, Interior Health:

“As a regional health authority responsible for administering health services in the Okanagan Valley Interior Health has been an active member o the Council since its inception.  Over this period we’ve been witness to the council’s commitment and passion to explore the issues effecting water sustainability, provide the means to communicate with all stakeholders, and stimulate open debate and collaboration on solutions.”

Toby Pike, Chairman Water Supply Association of BC:

“The Council provides a source of balanced technical advice to the Okanagan Basin Water Board – supporting good governance at the local level.”

Rob Swatzky, Mayor of Vernon:

“The Council provides the essential collaborative, comprehensive, technical and grassroots input and expertise needed for the Okanagan Basin Water Board to guide our plans and actions for all our communities in the Okanagan Valley watershed in dealing with our most precious and limited resource.”

Brian Symonds, Director Water Stewardship, BC Government:

“A key factor in the success of the Council has been the diversity of perspectives and expertise which are represented by the more than two dozen volunteer members and their high level of commitment to seeking collaborative solutions to the challenges and opportunities associated with managing water in the Okanagan.  In delivering these initiatives the Council has stayed true to its guiding principles of: think regional and think long term; protect nature for the benefit of all; anticipate change – act accordingly; balance multiple priorities; and everyone speaks – everyone listens.”